lore30 January 2008 at 10:18pmPosts: 1659 (0 today)Status: offline
home today from work.watched the HBO film-
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.
Now if only the u.s government would follow suit as the Australians.
Same story, different continent.
Australia to apologize to Aborigines
By ROHAN SULLIVAN, Associated Press Writer1 hour, 20 minutes ago
As a girl, Mari Melito Russell felt out of place. She was darker than the other kids at school, she felt more comfortable in the forest than her suburban home and she had vivid dreams of an Aboriginal woman beckoning her.
At age 24, she learned a shocking truth that helped explain her unease and set her on an agonizing search for an identity snatched away from her the day she was born.
Russell is among thousands of Australian Aborigines who were forcibly removed from their families under policies that lasted for decades until 1970, leaving deep scars on countless lives and the nation's psyche.
Australia's government said Wednesday it would formally apologize to the so-called "stolen generations" as the first item of business of the new Parliament, on Feb 13.
The issue has divided Australians for decades, and an apology would be a crucial step toward righting injustices many blame for the marginalized existence of Australia's original inhabitants ? its poorest and most deprived citizens.
"It's not going to bring back my life," Russell, 72, told The Associated Press Wednesday at her home on Sydney's outskirts. "It's not going to bring back my mum. It's not going to take away the abuse that I had to endure when I was growing up."
"But at least it's a start."
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, elected last November and whose pledge to apologize overturns a decade of refusals by his predecessor, has ruled out paying compensation. But he says he is determined to help all Aborigines achieve better health, education and living standards.
"This is about getting the symbolic covenant, if you like, between indigenous and non-indigenous Australia right and then moving on," Rudd said this week.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said Wednesday the apology would "be made on behalf of the Australian government and does not attribute guilt to the current generation of Australian people."
Her statement reflects the lingering concerns of many Australians that they should not be made responsible for mistakes by their forebears.
Aborigines ? 450,000 among Australia's population of 21 million ? are the country's poorest ethnic group and are most likely to be jailed, unemployed and illiterate. Their life expectancy is 17 years shorter than other Australians.
From 1910 until 1970, some 100,000 mostly mixed-blood Aboriginal children were taken from their parents under state and federal laws that argued the race was doomed and that integrating the children was a humane alternative.
An inquiry by the national Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission concluded in 1997 that many stolen generation children suffered long-term psychological effects stemming from their loss of family and culture. It recommended that state and federal authorities apologize and pay compensation to those who were removed. All state governments have apologized, but the question of compensation was left to the federal government.
Then-Prime Minister John Howard steadfastly refused to apologize or pay compensation, saying his government should not be held responsible for past policies.
Although the last laws granting authorities the power to take Aboriginal children from their families were abolished in 1970, many Aborigines say statistics show the government is still far more likely to take Aboriginal children into foster care than white children.
Last summer, the government passed a package of bills to fight what it said was rampant child abuse among Aborigines in the Northern Territory, fueled by widespread alcoholism, unemployment and poverty. The legislation, which included a controversial plan to take control of some Aboriginal lands, was condemned by critics as a racist attack on indigenous rights.
Aboriginal leaders generally welcomed Wednesday's pledge to issue a formal apology.
"Older people thought they would never live to see this day," said Christine King, whose group the Stolen Generations Alliance was consulted by the government about the apology.
Others still want compensation. Michael Mansell of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Center wants the government to set aside $882 million for compensation.
Russell grew up in Sydney with parents of Scottish and Irish backgrounds. She says her father beat her and sexually abused her. Russell's mother once scolded her for bringing an Aboriginal girl home to play, calling them "dirty" people.
She recalls having vivid dreams of an Aboriginal woman who sat on a rock and said, "Come back to your culture." Confused by the dream then, she now believes it was her ancestors beckoning her.
For Russell, the first hard evidence that she was adopted came after her mother died in 1959 and her aunt sent a letter saying she did not belong in the family and was no longer welcome.
She began scouring hospital records, birth and marriage registries and even shipping logs to try to discover her true identity, but clues were few.
In the mid-1990s, changes to the law made it easier for adopted children to access birth records and Russell discovered her true heritage: She was born to a 13-year-old Aboriginal girl named Joyce Russell, from whose arms she was taken on the day of her birth on Sept. 4, 1935.
A group called Link-Up, established to reunite families of the stolen generations, helped Russell trace her birth mother to a nursing home in Easton, Pa., and a nervous reunion between mother and daughter was finally arranged in 2001.
"I was trying to be really strong and not cry," Russell recalled. "It was a bit of a shock when they brought her up because the resemblance between me and her was really strong. She kept grabbing my hand, she kept walking with me everywhere. She wouldn't let me out of her sight."
At first the elderly woman didn't realize who the younger woman was, and welfare workers asked gently probing questions to try to prompt her memory, mentioning Mari Russell's birth date and the hospital she was born in.
"She started crying, and then she got so angry and she was sobbing," Russell said. "She said `I had a baby girl and they took her away from me. Why did they do that? Why did they do that?'"
"I said to her, 'It's OK mum, I'm that little girl.'"
Russell spent two weeks with her mother in Pennsylvania. Joyce Russell died last month at the age of 84, and her daughter was bringing her ashes home for burial.
For Russell, the apology is a positive step but will never replace what she and so many others lost.
"We missed out on our culture, our language, our history," she said. "You can never get back those lost years, you just can't."
Good to see movement in the right direction in Australia. May the healing begin.
Synnie30 January 2008 at 11:55pmPosts: 4169 (0 today)Status: offline
As long as they don't try once more to put the western idea of civilisation upon them, but help them having it their own way, yes.
If not, it just repeats old stories.
Thanks for posting this, Lore, in a way I wished, my uncle would have been able to hear this, but he died in 2005.
His working and research parts were just these northern territories, where he lives with the aborigines. . .at least he has some of their songs and languages collected and by now, they cross several oceans in new dresses, also fitting new films.
But what is gone, is gone.
Yet, its never too late.
T-DOGG31 January 2008 at 1:38amPosts: 2359 (0 today)Status: offline
Do you remember the thread about the Sioux succession from the US?
The background was laid on the foundation that the United Nations laid by granting specific rights to 'aboriginal natives' including the Native Americans.
Followed up smartly by the Aussie apologies to their own Aboriginies, finally culminating in the 'alleged' succession from the US governing body, more or less taking back about 25% of America's land, including the Dakotas, Wyoming and Vast areas of other states.
They extended an offer, for anyone who wants to, to join their new country. But first you have to renounce your American citizenship.
Just wanted to note that all these things are tied together, and not just happening at the same time.
lore31 January 2008 at 3:01amPosts: 1659 (0 today)Status: offline
hello there fellow angels.
Yes T-Dogg. i do remember and glad you mentioned it, as i did mention the Lakotas and the current events of declared seperation in this thread,
but then chose to delete those lines.
Bury My Heart.
Chi, your uncle was indeed an interesting man, I have read the stories you've shared about him and
I know you had great feelings and respect for him. I too wish he was here to hear these things.
but he is!!
T-DOGG31 January 2008 at 3:55amPosts: 2359 (0 today)Status: offline
You should read the book Lore.
The movie only covers about 30% of the timeline in the book.
Guaranteed to bring you right down.
Synnie31 January 2008 at 10:55amPosts: 4169 (0 today)Status: offline
Thanks, Lore, yes, I see it the same way, that he is still there, and additionally it helps to know, that Peter did not at all ignore him, in contrary.
However long it took him to come to the theme, but he did, and thats what counts and will also be unforgotten.
Its a strong tie for me at least, that you may well understand in this context.
Synnie31 January 2008 at 10:33pmPosts: 4169 (0 today)Status: offline
Thanks a lot, Matt!
The videos about that film seem to pile up on youtube now, very good! I have watched some already before.
But basically I am so glad, that my daughter saw the whole film, crying, as she said, when she was in Australia herself, just, when it came out. . .
I still don't know, if my uncle saw it, but he surely at least heard about it. During is last years, he did not answer letters anymore, but was considerd to have become senile, as a report said. Also real sad somehow, but thats life.
But what I ever got from him (and thats quite something), will be as much a treasure as what I got from Pete, and always it will stay connected in my memory. The simple fact, that my uncle considered us to be the right ones to pass it on, is something to be proud about.
Taruru, the book with their songs, is still available on amazon etc., by the way.
I suppose, if Orlo (his short name for Georg) would have come out amongst native indians, he would have done the very same there. We talked about it anyhow.
He knew, where we were, before we met him for the material for Pete. That must have been one reason (enough) for him, to trust it all over. Its all connected indeed.
There is so much, that has to be paid back to so many. . .
thatgirl7 February 2008 at 3:06amPosts: 6 (0 today)Status: offline
Very interesting, heart breaking and informative thread. Thank you All for the info. And thank you Lore for starting it.
lore7 February 2008 at 2:53pmPosts: 1659 (0 today)Status: offline
It is good to see you T.G.
yes, heart breaking.
and perhaps hopeful too.